Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Chicago Marathon

3 days post 2012 Chicago Marathon, my heart is still racing about the day.

This race was far different from any other race I've ever toed the line of in my life.
There was no expectation, no stress, no pressure. 

The only goal for the day was to lay the demons of my marathons past to rest and instead focus on being as supportive and encouraging as possible for my man during those 26.2 miles. This race wasn't about me and my quest to chase down that 3:05 marathon, instead this was his day and his journey back into endurance running after a 6 year hiatus. I was just along for the ride.

In our 28 years of life, D and I have known each other for over 15 of those years.

The first 3 of those years were as friends,
which was followed by 6 and a half years of dating,
then 18 months as an engaged couple,
and what has now been just over 5 years of marriage. 

Nearly every amazing or crappy life experience that either of us has ever had, the other one has stood lovingly on the side. Sometimes as an encourager and supporter, other times as the sense of logic making sure values and intentions are always pure and true to our character. Quiet when necessary and hot-mouthed when needed. We are a strong and solid team, that when divided is only half as strong.

Yet, we've never raced together.

Months ago when timing seemed right, I thought that marathon #7 would be THE marathon for me. My mind and body finally felt ready to tackle this behemoth of a race until things begun to slowly unravel early in the year that left me clinging by the skin of my teeth come June. By the time I caught myself it was too late, the damage had already been done and all I could do was take a brief time out from this whole racing game. 

Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin...
They will ALWAYS be there just waiting for me.

But the man wanting to run the exact same marathon as me?
THAT may not always be there.

We are in the bottom left corner where I'm in a purple shirt waving my arms and the man is in black with orange shoelaces.

May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Training with your spouse isn't the rainbows and gumdrops we thought it was going to be. There were numerous times this summer where we argued about pace on the lakefront causing what I'm sure was an awkward sight for onlookers, got annoyed with the other one talking too much or saying stupid things on hot days, and some days when we both just wanted to run alone. But we both managed to hang in there and make it to the start line pumped and ready to go for D's big goal for the day.

I've never started as far back into a pack as we did on race day, so our pre race timing was nothing but off. We waited in line for the bathrooms for about 50 minutes, barely made it into our start corral before the gun, and were never able to meet up with our friends at the front of the corral like we planned. Honestly I had no idea what 45,000 runners at the start of a race looked like until this race...and it was a cluster $@*%. Have to give some major props to those of you who patiently do this every race without losing your mind.

By mile 2, D confidently proclaimed that this was going to be the day that he went sub 3:40. Our pace settled in comfortably to our race plan, and I was having the time of my life running the the streets of Chicago once again. At mile 3 is when we caught the first people from wave 1, which kind of pissed me off because they were already walking. For some reason this year the race organizers thought that it would be a good idea to start ALL of the charity runners at the back of wave 1, no matter what pace they were running (or in a lot of cases, walking). Weaving in and out of these racers in an already congested areas was rather annoying, and in my opinion very unsafe.

As soon as we headed up north to our old neighborhood, I somehow got myself back on cloud 9 reminiscing the 10 years of memories this city had on me. I felt completely comfortable in our pace and couldn't help but laugh to myself that of course this marathon would be the one where my body and mind felt amazing and the temps would be perfect because I wasn't going balls-to-the-walls racing it.

My favorite and cutest spectator
After hitting the half way point is when it first became clear to me that D and I were having two entirely different race experiences. Around mile 14 I saw my parents on the side of the street and temporarily jumped off the course to hug and thank them for coming out to support us. When I caught back up with D he was still moving at a great pace and looking strong, but mentioned that he was starting to feel the wear of the previous miles already. Keeping positive for him, I let him know that I was going to hold steady at his goal pace until he said otherwise.

His enthusiasm and smile begun to slowly fade after this where he no longer begun to appreciate or acknowledge my tension breaking actions or encouragement. But I kept at it anyways.

Mile 12 we stopped to use the restrooms.
Miles 21, 24, & 26 were walking points.
Watch was picking up extra distance where I tried to get the Garmin to catch up with the mile markers around 17.

By 19.5 he hit the wall. His quads were heavy, the tops of his feet were tight from running on the cement, and he had already sweat out most of his electrolytes. As he stopped to stretch his calf on the side of the road, I couldn't bring myself to look at his face because I knew I would weep like a baby for him. Knowing what he was feeling, having hit that wall in nearly every marathon that I'd ever run before myself, it was heartbreaking to watch. I had tried to prepare myself to be strong when he was wavering, but it was much harder than I thought.

Though I've never been through hell like that 
I've closed enough windows
To know you can never look back

Think we may have to splurge on this pic
And of course, there is that damn heel strike AGAIN

Physically I felt great, my legs felt like they could go at our selected pace for days. I never hit the wall and instead my energy and drive seemed to spike as the miles clipped on. But emotionally, I was having a hard time keeping it together. I knew how badly he wanted that sub 3:40 finish, and it was hard to watch it slip away from him. There was nothing I could do to make this any easier on him physically, which is all I wanted to do in that last 10k.

While my legs were screaming at me to race the hell out of those last 6 miles, his were telling him to pull back the reins a bit. It was strangely odd to be thinking one minute that my body was ready to try to go sub 20 minutes in that last 5k and the next terrified wondering what damage that distance is going to do to D at our current pace.

Think we may have to splurge on this pic too
As soon as the 800 meters to go sign was in our sight, D rallied himself back. Climbing the Roosevelt hill we were picking off people like it was no big deal. He grabbed my hand and we ran the last straight away side-by-side hand-and-hand. At that point, I could no longer hold back the tears from the events of the past 26 miles as we crossed the finish line holding hands and tears streaming down my cheeks. It was totally lame, but I was beyond proud of him and the journey the last 3:56:21 held for us.

There was no PR for either of us that day, but that fact holds little weight in my heart today.

I had the time of my life running at his side through the streets of Chitown where I once again found myself enjoying the marathon. There is no PR in the world that will ever compare to those 26.2 miles we ran together, and I wouldn't trade that experience for any other.

BUT...I will get out there and race this distance again sometime soon, and it will be awesome. 


  1. Sounds like an incredible experience, one that already has a place in your memory books. A sub-4 hour marathon is a great achievement. The fact that he finished strong at the end is more than about 90% of the runners can say. Just ask all of those runners who you were picking off! I was telling myself during the marathon that when I got to mile 23, I would race the last 5k, but it became a "survival" 5k instead, and I got passed by some runners. Oh well, learning experience, I guess. Congrats!

  2. What a race and a very emotional one at that! I love how happy you look the whole time and it is amazing how different we feel when we are not putting the pressure on ourselves. I wish every race could be that way. He gave it a good shot and 3:56 is still a very good time! I am very proud of him and even more proud of you for being such a supportive wife and having his best interests at heart the entire time in spite of how great you were feeling. He will get his 3:40 especially since he has a speedy wife who can definitely pace him there!!

  3. Wow how awesome that must feel to help someone finish a marathon!!! Not very many people can break 4 hours in a marathon, that in itself is an awesome feat! You guys look great in the pictures, congrats to both you :)

  4. Those are some consistent times... great job you two! Welcome to the "we run together" party.

  5. What a great race for you two!!!! You look so happy in all of the pictures!

  6. Ok, maybe I am an emotional mess STILL, but this post made me cry and reminded me that the race isn't always about the finish time. It truly is about the experience. Thanks, Britt. xoxo

  7. That is freakin' awesome! I dream of racing with my man one day. PS: I LOVE LOVE THAT FUN. SONG!

  8. It truly is an amazing and very bonding experience to run an entire marathon with someone. Congratulations on very consistent and speedy marathon, you guys did great out there.

  9. It is SO AWESOME that ya'll ran and finished this race together! I love it!

  10. that is so awesome that you guys run together! that is so cute and the motivation I am sure is even better! Congrats on your run!

  11. Love this post! Congratulations to you both on a great race!:)

  12. I could have written so much of this (especially all the emotion you were feeling watching him struggle). Congrats to you both!

  13. Great recap! Congrats to you both.

  14. That looked like a fun day with your husband. It's great to see both of you had such a great time together.

  15. Congrats Britt & D! So happy you had an experience that made you enjoy the distance again. I think I need that, for the marathon :) Do you think you guys will ever train and race together again? :)

  16. Congrats to you both! When I read the part where he grabbed your hand, I might have had to hold back a tear or two. The marathon distance just brings out the emotions in me! I'm so happy for you guys and what a great way to experience the city that you both love together!

  17. Congrats!! My husband and I ran our first marathon together a year ago. Only, we didn't actually run it "together". He had a goal time that was 10 minutes faster than mine and wanted to start up ahead of me. I caught up to him at mile 8 (apparently, I went out a little too fast...) and we ran together for almost 9 miles. It was heartbreaking to have to run ahead without him at mile 17 but he insisted on it -- he was suffering and ended up missing his goal time by 28 minutes. I only went without him so that I could get my Boston qualifying time (something I really wanted to do.)

    I ended up running a faster marathon six months later that qualified me for the same Boston (2013). And I have never really gotten over the fact that I didn't just finish the marathon with him. He doesn't plan to ever run another one and I'm so sad to think we will never have that chance again.

    So awesome for you two to share that experience together! I got emotional reading it and wishing I had a similar memory with my husband.

  18. I think I may need to hire you as my personal race companion for my first marathon. Loved your story. Congrats to you both.

  19. Awesome job!! i'm hoping to run it next year. My husband will join me on some training runs but thats about as much as he'll do. Sometimes we have great runs together, other times we are "that" couple.

  20. You look so happy in all those pictures! I would LOVE it if my husband would do another run with me besides the mud run, I talked him into last year. What a great thing for you guys to share.

  21. I love this post. I love how incredibly happy you both look in the photos. I love that you ran together. Its such a great feeling to run with someone else where the pressure is off, and you can truly enjoy the moment. It's refreshing. Happy recovery to you both- it's well earned and deserved :)

  22. What a well written post! You are right about there always being other races and seizing THIS opportunity to run with your man. So happy that you guys got to do this together. I would LOVE for my husband to do one with me and it's roughly in the works for 2 years from now (he's working on his PhD). Enjoy the few rest days you have left. Excited to see what you have planned next !

  23. Excellent recap - nice to step back and remember why we love running so much. Great job!

  24. I must not have been too far behind you guys! 4:01 and a PR over here for me!! I loved this post!